Life-Changing Anchovy Toasts with Calabrian Chili Butter
Anchovies are having a moment. Long maligned for being a stinky little nuisance to be picked off pizza, they’ve tiptoed their way into the kitchens of home cooks everywhere, mine included. Their appeal was never so clear to me as when I watched my nine-year-old niece eagerly dangle anchovies into her mouth like gummy worms. She was swiping them from the jar on the counter as my sister and I pulled together preparations for a small dinner party. To start, we settled on these Anchovy Toasts with Calabrian Chili Butter. Paired with crisp white wine and a dish of olives, they were the runaway hit of the night. Life changing indeed!
Why the uptick in interest in anchovies is hard to say. Perhaps it’s our growing appreciation for stronger flavors thanks to the ongoing influx of global cuisine. Or maybe it’s because the anchovies we can now buy in the US are superior to what may have been available back in the day. Regardless, they have much to offer the home cook.
A Quick and Easy Appetizer Toast
I’m always looking for a simple, tasty solution to the question of what to serve as an appetizer. This is about as ideal as it gets. You can make these in a matter of minutes with just four ingredients, total. Start by lightly toasting baguette slices (this step can be done ahead). While that’s going, mash together butter, tomato paste, and Calabrian Chilis. Top each butter-smeared toast with an anchovy and your work is done.
Choose Good Anchovies
Like every ingredient under the sun, not all anchovies are created equal. I’ve tasted my fair share and two brands that I seek out are Angostina Recca and Ortiz. The former tends to be a bit more budget-friendly, and fits the bill for a bright and briny anchovy with the right hit of saltiness. My sister recently discovered the meaty variety from Cantabria, Spain, which I’ve yet to come across. If you want to learn more about these magical little fish, I wrote a whole piece about them over on Simply Recipes.
About Calabrian Chilis
Calabrian chilis are another magic trick for the home cook. They’re a spicy, red pickled pepper from the Calabrian region of Italy. I always have a jar stashed in my fridge and find it endlessly useful for adding a hit of tangy heat to tomato-based pasta sauces, pestos, vegetable dishes, sandwich spreads, and various Italian soups. That is to say, if you buy a jar just for the weensy amount called for in this recipe, it need not go to waste. I have bought Calabrian chilis in a variety of shops, from mainstream markets, to Italian grocers, and most recently, at Trader Joe’s. They’re sold both whole and chopped; my preference is the latter for ease of use. If you can’t find Calabrian chilis, feel free to substitute another chili paste (such as Harissa) or leave it out (the toasts are delicious without it).
What to Do With Leftover Anchovies?
If you have anchovies left in the jar, stow them in the fridge and use for any of the following:
- Make this Anchovy Mustard Vinaigrette or add to another favorite dressing.
- Mash a few into a pan of pasta sauce to bump up the umami. This simple tomato sauce would be a good one to embellish.
- Use it in this Lighter Green Goddess Dressing
- Toss together this Kale Caesar
- Make these mini French onion tarts.
If you like these Anchovy Toasts with Calabrian Chili Butter, you might like:
Anchovy Toasts with Calabrian Chili Butter
This simple appetizer makes a bright and briny bite to serve to guests (or keep all to yourself). If you can't find Calabrian chilies, use another spice paste, such as Harissa, or leave it out. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. You can toast the bread ahead of time and assemble the toasts up to an hour before serving.
- 1/2 French baguette
- 2 ½ tablespoons butter , softened to room temperature (I've made this with salted and unsalted. Both good.)
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped Calabrian chili (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets (Angostina Recca and Ortiz are favorite brands)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees or use your toaster oven.
Cut ten 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices slightly on the diagonal, which provides more surface area than cutting it vertically (you may have leftover baguette). Put on a sheet pan and bake until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, use a fork to cream the butter, Calabrian chili, and tomato paste until smooth.
Spread the butter over the toasted baguette, dividing it evenly. Place 1 anchovy on top of each toast (allow the oil to drip off a bit before laying down the anchovies). Serve.
Calabrian chilis are spicy, pickled chiles from Italy sold in some supermarkets, gourmet food stores, Italian markets, and Trader Joe’s. They’re packaged in jars either whole or chopped. I typically buy them chopped. If you can’t find Calabrian chiles, substitute Harissa or another favorite chili paste.